August 19th, 2019 • Project Management
If you’ve tried using spreadsheets for project management, you probably already know it doesn’t work very well. You end up frustrated and unproductive and wondering why on earth everyone uses spreadsheets so much. Maybe you think it’s just you. Nope. Spreadsheets are terrible for project management. Here’s why.
Here are the top 7 reasons why spreadsheets are terrible for project management and why you shouldn’t be using them:
It’s hard enough to organize spreadsheets for project management when you’re doing it alone, but have you ever tried to collaborate on a spreadsheet? It’s the worst. You can never be sure that you have up-to-date information. Some spreadsheet software programs allow multiple simultaneous editors, but others don’t, meaning team members are left waiting for a turn to utilize the data.
When collaboration is possible, you have version history nightmares to deal with. Sometimes data gets incorrectly changed or deleted, and you often don’t know who did it, why, or when. And that’s IF you notice the changes. Collaborative spreadsheets are notoriously vulnerable to errors and omissions that can cost you and your customers dearly.
Many people use spreadsheets as time logs, requiring each member of the team to separately track their hours and record them in a spreadsheet. This is little better than scribbling down your billable and non-billable hours on a collection of sticky notes and wallpapering the accounting department with them. Also, users can easily modify the hours worked on a task and there’s no accountability.
Since spreadsheets can’t actually track time, you end up needing another tool for that aspect of project management, adding a step to your operations, giving your team an extra task to remember, and creating more opportunities for spreadsheet errors.
How do the people on your team know what their responsibilities are? If you’re using spreadsheets for project management, they have to open the spreadsheet, know which place (or places) to look, and see what tasks you’ve assigned to them. Even if you never make changes once tasks have been assigned, that’s incredibly inefficient and leaves much room for human error.
What if you decide to reassign a task? You make a change in the spreadsheet, but your team won’t be aware of it. You have to send an email or notify them some other way and hope that your team members see that notification before anyone wastes time on a task you’ve reassigned or eliminated altogether. The spreadsheet, meanwhile, just sits there not helping you in task management.
In any project, it’s crucial to know how each task is coming along. Spreadsheets can hold lists of tasks, but they can’t keep track of where each task is in your process. You can attempt to solve this problem with a separate column for the status of each task, but you’ll have to manually update the records every time you complete a task.
Even attempting to track tasks in spreadsheets means tedious copy and paste repetition and, again, so much room for error. Automation and dependencies? No way.
How does your team know when you’ve made an important update? If you’re just using spreadsheets for project management, they don’t. You have to make the updates and then manually email your team to alert them of the updates you’ve just made. Seems redundant, huh?
How does your team know when a deadline is approaching? Each team member has to set up their own reminders in some separate app to keep track of their deadlines. No one has visibility on anyone else’s deadlines, what might be behind schedule, or any missed deadlines that could affect their own work. And what if you, the project manager, need to change a deadline? Nobody knows because spreadsheets can’t send notifications or deadline alerts.
What’s your project management methodology? Agile, Kanban, PRiSM, Waterfall? Spreadsheets don’t care, and they can’t help you implement your methodology. As a project manager, you’ve worked to find the project methodology that works best for your team. Even if you don’t label your project management methodology with a particular name or follow a certain ‘school’ of project management, you have a vision for how things should go.
You know the project flow that will work for your team and your projects, but there’s no way to organize a spreadsheet to visualize that flow. If your team is all in one central office, you might be able to use a whiteboard to illustrate your methodology, but once the meeting ends and your lines and arrows get erased, the team is stuck with no way to visualize the project outside the columns and cells of a spreadsheet.
Each organization, team, and project is unique. Spreadsheets are not. Customizing a spreadsheet to meet the specific needs of your team can be time-consuming and frustrating. Your choices are to rely on generic project templates, build one from scratch, or pay someone to build one for you. Even then, spreadsheets don’t have features like form editors and filters.
Spreadsheets simply aren’t built for project management, and who wants to spend time trying to force a tool to do something it was never meant to do? You need to focus your energy on the project and its deliverables, not on the tools your team needs to make things happen behind the scenes.
In light of how truly terrible it is to use spreadsheets for project management, what is a project manager to do?
Switching from spreadsheets to project management software can make a world of difference in the way you manage projects. A good project management software will allow you to collaborate effectively, track time, assign tasks to team members, keep track of task progress, get automatic notifications, manage deadlines, apply your project methodology, and customize everything to meet your specific needs – all the things spreadsheets can’t do – and so much more.
Kissflow is more than just project management software, and it’s way more than spreadsheets.
Kissflow is a digital workspace designed with small to medium sized businesses in mind. Built for teams that need a project management tool that’s both customizable AND easy to understand, Kissflow lets you manage your projects in the way that works for your team. Easily customizable forms, boards, and workflows let you tailor your project management to each unique project. Kissflow gives you the ability to visualize your projects for streamlined management, no clunky spreadsheets necessary. Request your free trial today.